Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

As you already know, the Fourth holds some significance in my family’s life. In 1949, our Year of Living Dangerously, my Father died from a brain tumor in April. The Flapper decided she needed to take a small road trip on the Fourth of July weekend that year, so she piled everyone in the car. Everyone except my brother Michael, who wanted to stay home. He was eleven years old and had a basketball game.

We were driving outside the city of Scranton to see the new airport in Wilkes Barre, PA. A drunk driver hit us head on. My Nana was holding me in the back seat, I was 10 months old, there were no child seats.

Every Fourth is a mountain for me to climb; and this year is no different. I approach the holiday with some semblance of respect. Don’t get me wrong – I love our flag, the parades, and barbeque. But I’d just as soon not get in a car.

My siblings all had different ways of coping.

Mike, the one who wasn’t in the car, threw an amazing 4th of July party with his wife Jorja every year on Lake Minnetonka in MN. He called it “the good life” and my sister Kay would fly in from NY to be with the Flapper. After all, 14 year old Kay was in a coma for a month in 1949. My brother, seven year old Dr Jim, got to ride in a fire engine after the accident. He later moved his family from California to the Land of a Thousand Lakes.

I was the only one missing. I was the one sent to a foster family, and I started my own family in New England.

The Fourth of July parade was our introduction to Pittsfield, MA. Bob was interviewing for a job as an ER doctor, and I was enchanted with the Berkshires. We sat on Edith Wharton’s lawn to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We got tickets to Jacob’s Pillow and I remembered what it meant to dance. We had the Bride in 1979, while we were living on the side of a mountain with a spring-fed pond.

The Rocker was born midsummer, at the edge of a bird sanctuary. I was writing for the Berkshire Eagle, and I didn’t need to travel for the Fourth. We were content to stay home. Bob always said emergency departments are at their busiest on this holiday.

This year fireworks are cancelled in Nashville. No parade. Our city is taking a step back because the coronavirus infection rates are rising. And bars are closed, which is a good thing.

But love isn’t canceled. Patriotism isn’t cancelled. I still love this country, despite the last three years. Happy Birthday USA! Yes our founders were slave holders and scoundrels, but they did do some things right.

IMG_7822

 

Read Full Post »

The rain has started, now the beach is just a memory.

All last week, I sounded like a stereotypical old person: “We didn’t have sunscreen when we were young;” or “We only had black and white TV, no Internet!” I could have told the Grands that I had to walk 10 miles uphill to school, but that would be a lie. I did have to get dressed up in a snowsuit, hat and gloves to wait for the school bus…with other kids … because parents hadn’t heard about random kidnappings yet. Before Climate Change.

No helicopter parents back in the day, I would just stand outside in my playpen watching the activity on our street in Victory Gardens, while Nell did her daily cleaning inside. Once I started school, I’d be shooed out the door after tearing off my Sacred Heart uniform, and hanging it up, to ride my bike renegade around the neighborhood. School was a dull, dreary day full of sitting at my desk with my hands crossed into a ball, gazing at the brick building across the street through the window.

Today Metro Nashville schools have decided to reopen in the Fall. But in true Trumpian fashion, they are passing the buck to the parents in this Time of Coronavirus. It’s up to each and every family, you have a choice – 1) send your child to school, or 2) continue learning online with a remote curriculum. The American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in – they want every child to get back to school!

“…the AAP argues that based on the nation’s experience this spring, remote learning is likely to result in severe learning loss and increased social isolation. Social isolation, in turn, can breed serious social, emotional and health issues: “child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.” Furthermore, these impacts will be visited more severely on Black and brown children, as well as low-income children and those with learning disabilities.”  https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/29/884638999/u-s-pediatricians-call-for-in-person-school-this-fall

Would you send your child to school if he had an auto-immune disease? Would you send your child to school if she had a grandparent living at home? Will the poor go back to school, while the wealthy buy their kids iPads and tutors?

We’ve all been socially isolated these last few months – 16 weeks to be exact. Bars and beaches are starting to close, again, because our infection rate is going up. For anyone paying attention this is not a surprise given our glorious lack of leadership. The rate of infection and hospital admissions and ultimately deaths are directly related to the rate of noncompliance with SOCIAL DISTANCING, MASKS and HAND WASHING.

Yesterday, the Bride went back to the ER, the Groom returned to his ICU, and we had our last day of unlimited hugs with the Grands. We brought yellow, Rainier cherries over to Great Grandma Ada and Hudson. The Love Bug put her hand on Ada’s through the glass – Hudson showed the L’il Pumpkin he had the same Star Wars pattern on the inside of his mask! We all made heart signs through the vestibule window. Our eyes were tearing up as we left.

We are back in the Land of Breaking News – grieving our collective losses, reigning in our emotions after hearing Mr T did nothing, absolutely nothing when he learned our soldiers had a Russian bounty on their heads. If SCOTUS allows us to see Mr T’s taxes, his adoration of Putin will become obvious. SCOTUS is on a roll!

We desperately need something to look forward to, baseball or ballet? Today at least will be a good day. T’ai Chi Tuesday has become Pilates Zoom Tuesday and I have a loaf of Bob’s sourdough sitting on the counter! And at least the rain is dampening the Saharan dust cloud.

IMG_7883

Read Full Post »

Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”

@realDonaldTrump

I actually chuckled! Could it be that Mr T has actually got a sense of humor? A favorite reporter of mine retweeted his latest Twittering. We’ve just returned from a trip to Whole Foods, masks and groceries on faces and in hands, to hear that the SCOTUS has knocked another decision out of the park.

The current administration, made famous by keeping children in cages, will not be allowed to send Dreamers, the undocumented adults who came to this country as children, back to their countries of origin. Amen Chief Justice Roberts!

I just finished reading a book about a child, a little girl who was abandoned at the age of 3 by her parents, who had to flee Nazi Romania and the invading Iron Guard death squads during WWII. They thought their child’s best hope of survival was to dress her in her finest clothes, and leave her in a stairwell of a fancy apartment building. They thought she might be kept alive by one of the wealthy families, instead she was found by the concierge who took her to an orphanage:

The Girl They Left Behind, (by Roxanne Veletzos) in this way, tackles not only the tension of life in the face of numerous bombings and political escapades, but also tries to encompass the emotional drama of adoption and how adopted parents and children alike struggle to adjust to becoming a family. This picturesque exploration compounds the ticking clock of war that Veletzos leaves in the story’s background, leaving Natalia and her adopted parents, Anton and Despina, to make their decisions in the face of bombings, communist rule, and a desire to stay alive and together. https://medium.com/the-coil/book-review-roxanne-veletzos-the-girl-they-left-behind-celia-daniels-89d645eb1168

The parallels in the rise of Fascism in 1940s Bucharest to today are compelling. Based on a true story, Veletzos’ tale is similar to her great grandmother’s experience as an orphan during the war. Though we had not visited Bucharest on our Viking trip, I remembered the shoes on the shore of the Danube in Budapest. And in particular, the small shoes of Jewish children who were massacred there. This book is a page-turner. It will keep you up reading until 3 in the morning.

I thought of our newly discovered niece, Tamara. Adopted at birth, she thought she was part Italian. Raised in North Carolina, she said, “I’m the first Jew I ever met!” We all laughed.

Talia didn’t know she was Jewish. I didn’t know that after WWI, Soviet Romania sold people back to their families, mostly to Israel, for large sums of money. At one time, 35,000 Jews lived in a typical city in Romania, now there are a few hundred. If your Jewish family members survived the concentration camps and Death Squads, you could have them officially smuggled out of Romania for cash, paying off loans, or oil-drilling equipment. How much is a life worth, George Floyd’s brother asked Congress.

I remember once my foster mother, Nell, told me that the Flapper never gave them any money for me. She said this proudly, even though Daddy Jim’s job barely paid the bills. Of course my biological mother was widowed with young children and didn’t have much money anyway. I was never officially adopted, I was just waiting. But I guess the Flapper did get a stipend from the government for each child under a certain age; it was called The Aid to Dependent Children Program passed in 1935.

It provided $18 per month, and $12  for a second child. So I guess she got $42 dollars a month for my two brothers and me, thank you FDR! But she did pay for summer camp at St Joe’s and ballet school. The young girl who used to sneak out of her window in Scranton to dance to Tommy Dorsey’s band, wanted her daughter to know her way around a dance floor.

Congratulations Dreamers! And welcome to your new home, Uncle Joe will seal this deal next year.

IMG_7782

 

Read Full Post »

It’s the first Sunday in May and I’ve had my hands in the dirt, potting soil that is; I’ve planted Thai basil and regular basil, oregano and English thyme, French tarragon, rosemary and Italian sage to name a few. Our patio garden is like the UN of horticulture, resplendent with aromatic kitchen herbs mixed in among pots of flowers. And that makes me very happy.

We’ve had lots of time to think about things lately, and to do more of whatever brings us joy and less of the obligatory stuff. Today marks 2 months of our Coronavirus stay-in-place order. For 2 whole months Bob and I have been learning how to navigate staying home, with each other, all the time. Since Bob retired, I figured we’re veterans at this. And for the most part, our 40+ year marriage is a safe harbor, that is until the other day.

I opened the refrigerator door and couldn’t find the lox. I really wanted a lox and bagel, I’d even ordered the “plain” bagels, the kind Bob likes. Turns out, I’m a pro at using Shipt to shop Publix! I prefer “everything” bagels and whipped garden veggie cream cheese, but he’s a purist. It’s Philly’s original bar of cream cheese schmeared on a plain toasted bagel, or nothing at all. And nothing and nowhere could I find the Nova lox!

“You ate ALL the lox?!” I shouted at him.

While the Bride and Groom are on the front lines of this pandemic, the rest of us are holding our own in this storm, staying at home. We even ordered our herbs and vegetables and flowers from our local nursery online, which was difficult for me. I usually put my pots together as I go along, in person, inspecting roots and picking the most beautiful plants. I had to trust them to find just the right boxwood and lobelia.

Then we drove up, opened our back hatch and voila, no-touch garden shopping! But I wasn’t always a gardener, I used to be a newspaper reporter. I went to school board meetings and borough council and planning board meetings. I wrote biographies about colorful characters. I wrote expository essays and tried to make boring press releases palatable. Back in the day, when I had a deadline and people held the actual paper in their hands.

Today is not just the 8th week of quarantine, it’s #WorldPressFreedonDay. Without the fearless pursuit of the truth, without a free press, our democracy will become a true kakistocracy, run by incompetent, lying fools.

“3 May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story. ”  https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldpressfreedomday

Today 67,000 Americans are dead, and Mr T tweets about “fake news?” This was his May 1st Tweet :

“Concast (NBC News) and Fake News CNN are going out of their way to say GREAT things about China. They are Chinese puppets who want to do business there. They use USA airwaves to help China. The Enemy of the People!

A free press keeps us honest, it shines sunlight into the halls of power. This pandemic too shall pass, just like this presidency, it will be found on the pages of a history book. And Mr T will not be able to deny the numbers of dead, or his magical/delusional thinking in January and February.

So if you don’t subscribe to a news outlet, preferably one that is independently-owned like the NYT or WPO, think about getting an online subscription. We can plant all the seeds we want this spring, but without sunlight, nothing will grow.

95E61F31-D0D8-4734-9DF9-5EAEC6A4DE86

 

Read Full Post »

I saw a meme the other day that went something like this, “There will be 2 types of people on the other side of this quarantine: great cooks and alcoholics!” Let’s all strive for the former.

While Bob and I were chopping up nuts and apples for our virtual Passover Seder, I started thinking about food and our relationship to it – do we live to eat, or eat to live? Now, our days revolve around meals like never before. What kind of traditional foods would we need at this year’s Seder table? What could we do without, since it’s just the 2 of us?

What could we even order on Shipt? Horseradish? Would grape juice be just as good as Kosher wine?

Then I started to wonder if people were going to cook a big ham, studded with pineapples and cherries for Easter? Is everybody still coloring eggs even if there are no little children to hunt for them? Today is Good Friday, and as far back as I can remember it was always pretty unremarkable. The statues and the crucifix at Sacred Heart Church were covered in purple cloth, the mood was always sombre. At home, we gave up meat, so I either ate shrimp or fish sticks!

In Ireland, people will plant root vegetables, especially potatoes today:

“…most had a custom of setting their scealláin, or seed potatoes, on Good Friday when it fell in March. This was termed putting down the early pot”, and the people worked each day from Good Friday until they had set all the potatoes.

If Good Friday was late, and fell in April, it was seen as the point up to which such work should focus. In any case, it was imperative that all the spuds be covered before the cuckoo was heard. Nobody wanted to be a “cuckoo farmer”  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/10-good-friday-traditions-you-ve-never-heard-of-1.3864889

My foster mother Nell was never a great cook, admitting that if it didn’t come in a can she didn’t know what to do with it. But her one reliable, home-cooked, go-to, comfort meal was pork chops and applesauce, with a side of french fries. This was always a special treat, along with her once a year “Haloopkies.” Pork stuffed cabbage simmered in sauerkraut accompanied by rye bread and butter, nirvana for me in the 1950s.

But I inherited my love of cooking from my mother, the Flapper. Almost every weekend I’d watch her chop, cook and bake delicious meals for her diverse family of Catholic and Jewish kids. She abhorred waste, like many Depression-era women before her, so she’d always make a soup out of leftover pot roast with barley or a mulligatawny stew out of whatever was left in the refrigerator.

I just looked up the word “mulligatawny” since I thought it was a word she made up, but no. In fact, it’s a curry stew! The Flapper loved to embellish the truth, which I hated at first, but came to enjoy with my siblings. If someone dared to ask her if a dessert was homemade, she’d proudly say “Of course!” But you never really knew.

The first dish I cooked last month as the pandemic was looming large was chicken chili. It was the last night we had our Grands sleepover, before we were told to shelter in place. I added whatever vegetables I had left in the refrigerator to the pot, plus 2 cans of beans. I chopped up a poblano pepper for a slight whiff of heat, and served it beside sliced avocado and of course, bread and butter. It was a hit with the Bug and the Pumpkin!

Bob’s got his raised bed planted and we have already picked spinach. We ordered food from Shipt online and were delighted, I may never set foot in a grocery store again.  Never thought I’d ever have someone else do my grocery shopping, but here we are in this brave new world. Searching our pantries for lentils and flour, or matzoh, and remembering how cooking can nourish the soul.

I sent Bob over to Ms Berdelle with some chicken soup last night. Maybe I should start a chicken soup food truck when this over? He ran a pretty great Zoom Seder for our family and friends, from 3 years old to 95! It’s time to clean out the cobwebs in our homes and our minds; this is the season to declutter, to wash our patio furniture, to renew our lives, to plant and welcome fresh air and sunlight into our cloistered homes.

This is the season to stay at home and save lives.

I hope that cooking brings you joy during this lonely, holy week, and that your pantry stays stocked with your choice of beverage. Below Bob is setting up the Zoom Seder, while I prepare the Seder plate.

IMG_7445

Read Full Post »

We are all figuring out ways to come together while apart.

Bob and I shared cocktail hour one night in a parking lot with neighbors. Some of us sat on tailgates and some got comfy on camp chairs. While keeping the appropriate distance, we got caught up on local gossip – the last time we’d seen each other we were cleaning up the streets after our Tornado.

I like to capitalize Tornado because it seems weighty, and it was my first time cheating death by Mother Nature. And we cannot forget Nashville was already reeling, before our “Stay at Home” order; some of us had no roof, or a home for shelter.

Yesterday we ordered cupcakes from our local bakery, The Cupcake Collection. Mignon is offering curbside delivery! https://www.thecupcakecollection.com/  They had just started up their business again, after losing a good portion of their historic house to record-setting winds last month. I remember the Bride’s Italian Nanny, Giovanna, loved red velvet cupcakes. But we were hoping to celebrate Great Grandpa Hudson’s 94th birthday with some sweet potato cupcakes.

Hudson was a redhead when he was young. He lied about his age to enlist in WWII and served on a ship in the Pacific Theatre. He is the only grandfather my children have ever known since my father died when I was a baby, and Bob’s father, well, he was of no use. My children never met him.

Hudson still serves as Ada’s co-star in Nashville. But when we would visit them in NJ, he was always the fix-it guy, having actually built a hospital in Ghana once upon a time when he was a missionary. He carved gigantic totem poles, fixed furniture, the pool every spring, and any plumbing or roofing problems that might pop up. He was the husband/handyman every woman ever wanted. Over the years, he’d officiate at more weddings than I can count, including the Bride and Groom’s.

We sang the Happy Birthday song to Hudson through a glass window in the vestibule of their assisted living facility. I’m not really sure if he could hear us. Only aides are allowed in and out, but we could talk with Ada through our cell phones. Her spirit is incredible, this virus cannot diminish that resilient light. “How are my babies?” she asked me. So I told her how the Bride is home-schooling, that she has enough PPE for now, and about Dolly Parton’s gift to Vanderbilt. Dolly for President!

She said she likes my red hair, and I told her it was pink leaning toward fuchsia. Leave it to me to decide to color my hair when I won’t be able to see my stylist for awhile.

Bob and I have figured out how to use Zoom, it’s actually pretty easy. I can still take a group Pilates class once a week through my iPad. I only need a yoga mat and a foam roller. I almost don’t recognize myself in that gallery window box – who is that purple headed lady?

Some of you know that I’ve often felt like a character in an Anne Tyler novel, going about her day to day existence, seemingly normal, while balancing an out-of-control inner life. Maybe most writers live in the subtext? It’s certainly helpful right now – in this out-of-control outer life – to stay in the moment, so I thought I’d recommend Tyler’s newest book to you, since we all have a lot of time on our hands. Why not call up your local bookstore?

Her new novel is “Redhead by the Side of the Road.” It’s about second chances, it’s funny and compassionate at the same time. You might want to eat a cupcake while you read it! https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-520904645953AE18-6DD5-4CA6-93ED-99E3EFF69A4C

 

Read Full Post »

A disaster happened when Bob and I first went to Vegas. It was December 10, 1992. I remember thinking I wanted to see the big rodeo that was happening right outside of town. I loved riding horses in summer camp and didn’t really gamble, and Bob doesn’t drink, so what’s to do? Plus, the big shows were mostly still in development. I had tagged along last minute for a 4 day medical conference and we had arranged for Bob’s secretary to mind the kids back home on the Jersey Shore.

When we woke up the next morning to a reporter on TV standing in floodwaters above his knees in Sea Bright, NJ, I started to panic. Our home was in Rumson, right across the drawbridge from that sand spit scattered with beach clubs and bars. The Shore was being pounded by a so-called “No Name Storm” because nobody saw it coming. We got through to the babysitter. She told us the painters had left? We had a group of Irish guys still painting the finished kitchen renovation and family room… we had just moved into the MidCentury Modern house in September.

“…the strong northeast portion of the nor’easter affected New Jersey for several days,[5] producing strong winds and record high tides.[14] Wind gusts reached 80 mph (130 km/h) in Cape May, which were the strongest winds in association with the storm. Sustained winds were around 30 mph (48 km/h) in the region.[2] High winds in Atlantic City destroyed the windows of storefronts.[15] Along the Jersey coast, the nor’easter produced waves of up to 25 ft (7.6 m) in height.[2] About 25 mi (40 km) offshore Long Branch, waves reached heights of 44 ft (13 m).[“

But it wasn’t the waves that worried us, it was the high tide that came right into our house from the Shrewsbury River. This was the 100 year flood our realtor had told us about and luckily we had flood insurance. But I wasn’t worrying about the house, I wanted to get back to my children, the Bride was 13 and the Rocker was 8. All of the NY Metro area airports were closed.

You can see why I have mixed feelings about Vegas. Most of you know the rest of this story – the fireman friend who rescued the kids, the reunion a few days later when flights started up again. We returned to Vegas once, after the kids were grown, and I still felt slightly disoriented. The fake Eiffel Tower. The huge Cirque du Soleil shows. We managed to stay at Mandalay Bay where you could sit on a fake beach. My only respite was booking a Canyon Ranch spa day.

I was thinking about the Mandalay Bay during the disastrous Democratic debate this week in Vegas. It sits at the far end of the Strip, and was the epicenter of one of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history; 58 people killed and 850 injured at a country music festival. In September of 2017, JUST 3 YEARS AGO, a 64 year old maniac checked into that hotel with a garrison of weapons (23 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition) and because he was such a good customer, the hotel gave him his room for free. https://www.businessinsider.com/timeline-shows-exactly-how-the-las-vegas-massacre-unfolded-2018-9

One of the candidates mentioned, in an aside, that Bernie had been protecting gun manufacturers, but it was immediately glossed over. Was it Biden? Why didn’t the moderators manage to bring up this public health epidemic that kills 100 people a day in this country…how can you talk about healthcare and NOT go there?

Soon we will know what Nevada thinks about the front-runners. Did Elizabeth resurrect her campaign by going after the Trump stand-in (Bloomberg)? Is Mayor Pete actually relatable and not an automaton? Do you think Bernie, an angry, old man, can beat Trump? And did Amy seal her fate by trying to speak in Spanish? I don’t have to have a beer with somebody to know if they’re authentic, smart and competent.

When flood waters rush in, I only have to know if you’ll be there with sand bags, and hot chocolate.  IMG_7182

 

Read Full Post »

When I first met Wendi, she was holding her baby boy. Her smile was like sunshine as she showed me around the property. We had finally moved to Virginia, and when the Bride and I first saw the house, she had been away on a business trip. My soon-to-be landlord was a fabulous designer, she flew all over the country installing the dreams of her famous clients.

Strangely enough on that crystal clear day in Charlottesville, Wendi was in New Jersey.

But at our first look, her husband, wanted us to rent their guest cottage. He knew the Bride was starting at UVA Medical School, and he was psyched about our Duke connection. As he led us through the main house and into the dining room, where an old Dutch master-like portrait of a man with a beard hung over a sideboard, I wasn’t prepared for this revelation.

“There’s a building at Duke University named after my ancestor,” he said pointing up to the painting, “It’s the Allen Building.”

In fact, Bob and the Bride were well acquainted with the Allen Building. Turns out it was named after a good friend of JB Duke in the early 1920s, a man from Warrenton, NC – George Garland Allen. Allen had started out as a bookkeeper for the American Tobacco Company in 1895, working his way up in the Duke organization.

My new landlord’s Great Grandfather, on his Mother’s side, had been known to say it was easier to accumulate his wealth than it was to give it away.

This didn’t stop us from moving our Welsh Corgi along with big Buddha Bear and Bailey Dawg (the Bride’s Lab) into the smaller “cottage” on their property. Wendi welcomed us with open arms, in fact she collected a menagerie of dogs too – from a sublime Great Dane to another ridiculous Corgi! When we finally built our house overlooking the Blue Ridge, Wendi had 2 small boys, and 2 matching Labs.

In contrast to her husband’s Southern lineage, Wendi was a California girl. She didn’t come from money; she had been a nanny in NY and then went to school for design. She built her own business from the ground up, and juggled 2 children with the demands of her world-wide clientele. I remember distinctly when she told me about this woman who would come in and cook you a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday and put them in the freezer.

Aha, so this was how working women who might jet off at a moment’s notice took care of their family. This was before GrubHub.

Wendi would throw great Gatsbyesque parties around their pond behind their home. She sent her boys to the public school and became one of the fiercest football moms around. She loved keeping tabs on the Rocker, and made sure her boys knew all about his band. When the Parlor Mob stopped by on a swing through Virginia, she treated them like royalty. When I became secretary of the local book club, she’d make a point of attending if she was in town.

She was one or two decades younger than most of us; a doctor, a few lawyers, a few teachers, and me, the one who could make an email list-serve. Wendi’s California blonde exuberance would always add the fun component to our gatherings. After her divorce, she started a new business of high-end consignment pop-ups that housed many of the pieces Bob and I couldn’t carry with us to Nashville.

Last month, after saying goodbye to her oldest son, who was heading to Australia for his college semester abroad, Wendi died tragically, she was only 53 years old. That baby, that I first met on her hip, is now in high school. When my old friend and neighbor called to tell me the news, I was shaking. How can this be? Didn’t I just talk with her about our trip to Tulum? Didn’t I just see beautiful pictures on Instagram of her December holiday in Puerto Rico? She’d found a new love, and life was looking good for my friend.

How can a light like that be extinguished? My lovely, vibrant Wendi, how can this happen? I hope you knew how many people loved you. Your outstanding sons are your legacy, your Valentines in football jerseys. Sleep peacefully dear heart.

IMG_0044

Read Full Post »

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt, will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

What was it about the Nashville Symphony on Sunday night? Steve Hackman, a young conductor from LA, walked out to the podium with his long arms and long curly hair and faced the audience, telling us how he came to compose “The Times They Are A-Changin: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan.” He introduced the first violin; behind the orchestra sat row upon row of the Nashville Symphony Chorus, over a hundred voices strong.

As Hackman raised his baton to conduct one of the first pieces, “Tangled Up in Blue,” I could feel the knot in my throat constricting. Admittedly, I was already feeling blue – from the never-ending rain and the political parody of the last few years – from a week-long insult to our collective intelligence that was playing itself out on the Hill. I was feeling discouraged, resigned to a president who was like a demagogue, with an attorney general guarding his flank, and a lapdog/senator, who did his bidding.

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wondering if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red

As the music swelled and the chorus of voices swept through the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, Bob and I looked at each other. This evening would turn out to be a metaphor for our lives together, for the 60s and the 70s; tender yet explosive at times. We somehow knew, through war and divorce, we would find our way back to each other. We would meet again “…someday on the avenue.” Next came “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, babe
The light I never knowed
And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road

I forgot what it was like to be immersed in a musical experience, to close my eyes and allow the strings and chords to penetrate my soul. This wasn’t an Italian opera, the words were in English and they defined my generation. Tears were slowly rolling down my cheeks by the time the chorus began “I Shall Be Released.” Is this a plea for death to come, to cover us like a well-worn blanket? The last phrase is about standing in a lonely crowd, next to a man who swears he’s not to blame…”Crying out that he was framed.”

Any. Day. Now. Any day now, we shall hear what our senators are willing to do to keep their seats, to retain their power. Will they continue to cover-up his perfect phone call? To pretend our president wasn’t granting favors to other authoritarian leaders around the world?

In 2016 Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, for having created “New poetic expressions within the great American Song tradition.” He put off traveling to Stockholm to receive his medal, finally giving a reluctant speech about his influences in literature from grade school:  “Moby DickAll Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.”  Songs, he tells us, are unlike literature, they’re meant to be sung, not read.”

Finally, Dylan quoted The Odyssey: “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story.”

In this New Chinese New Year, have I become just another Cassandra, writing prophesy that no one will believe, warning my readers that our democracy is at a tipping point. That we are doomed to repeat the past if we simply stand by and do nothing. Nixon knew enough to leave, and Clinton knew enough to apologize for lying. This lying, malicious president knows nothing, which is far worse.

Today is T’ai Chi Tuesday, a form of mindful meditation. I will find my center, and try to balance the dark with the light. I will keep calling my senators, will you?

IMG_7016

 

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, a crocus pushed its shiny, new green leaves up in our garden. I remember always being surprised to see the little flower in the midst of snow and ice in the Berkshire Mountains. It is the harbinger of spring, just as sure as a robin jumping around in the grass. But this time, it’s too early; the first week of a new year should find us deep into winter with hats and scarves and gloves. Instead, today it will be 60 degrees.

“In addition to Crocus’ merit as a beautiful and cheerful winter bloomer, one species, C. sativus, is the source of the spice saffron. Henry Beston describes C. sativus in Herbs and the Earth (1935, D.R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.): “An autumn Crocus with a long history as a drug, a flavoring powder, and a pigment, only the golden stigma of the flower being used… May not overwinter.”  True enough, although many Crocus are perennial in Tennessee, as a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 plant C. sativus may not overwinter for many Tennesseans. If that doesn’t deter you from growing your own saffron, Steven Still writes that “about 7000 flowers are required to produce 3 ounces of saffron.”  https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/POM-2016-02.aspx

I had no idea the costliest spice in the world comes from a crocus!

Makes me want to dig up my old, Julia Child paella recipe. I was thinking about my younger, newly married self in the car the other day; living in Cambridge, MA and spotting Julia herself at the small green grocers’.  NPR was interviewing a chef about his “…worst kitchen disasters.” Of course, it was slicing off the tip of a finger with a mandolin his first time on live TV!

I’ve managed to avoid the dreaded mandolin injury – I use mine to slice whisper thin vegetables into my veggie lasagna. But one of my very first attempts at the fine art of cuisine in Cambridge does come to mind. I almost torched my kitchen when I tried making Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin! Since then, I’ve left anything flambeed to the experts. Even resisting the urge to buy a tiny blowtorch to crinkle-brown creme brulee – my favorite dessert!

I wish my keyboard did l’accent aigu“Getting your (French) accents right is the difference between being a pêcheur (fisherman) and a pécheur (sinner). Which one would you rather have on your résumé?”

Parsley and rosemary are still growing in the garden, even some of Bob’s winter kale seems hardy and ready to be harvested. The Bride and her family are returning soon from Hawaii and I’d like to cook them something for their first night back. Maybe I’ll buy some red wine and make a big pot of Boeuf Bourguignon! Like every good semi-Southern cook I’ve got some bacon in the fridge and I know the L’il Pumpkin loves this dish.

Although, after hearing about their first Kalua Pig in a Pit, where the Love Bug definitely did not like the idea of unearthing the body of a full-on, dead, roasted pig, I may have to get creative with vegetables and her old stand-by, pasta. Maybe we’ll roast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and pretend it’s still winter! Here they are on a lava rock.

IMG_6991

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: